RALEIGH — Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien gave his players a complete day off today after they lost to Carolina, 3-2, in overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series and fell behind two games to one.
The players were free to do what they wanted, with some playing Xbox in a team lounge and others lingering in the mall area near where they’re staying.
With no player media availability, the bench boss was left to answer for his pupils in the aftermath of their heartbreaking defeat.
“We’re not in trouble,” Julien said in the lobby of his team’s hotel. “We’re in a series that’s a hard-fought series. What we have to do probably is get our game going in the right direction, which means our commitment to outworking the other team and our commitment to making better decisions on the ice. And I think it’s a combination of both … again, it’s a mindset. We’ve struggled the last couple games but there’s ups and downs in a season.
“You win a game, you’re Stanley Cup contenders. You lose one, you’re in trouble. That’s what you have to face every day. We just have to keep our focus on what we have to do, believe in ourselves and go out and do that.”
Throughout his 10-minute chat with the media, Julien kept stressing his hope of a better tomorrow (as in, Game 4 of this series at RBC Center).
“I think that’s what this whole day off is about is to take a step back, let’s regroup here and let’s go back to playing the type of game we know we can here,” he said when asked about his players’ frame of mind.
There were a few positives during Boston’s loss. And Julien said most of those were, unfortunately, only partially completed.
“I think it’s more, there were a lot of good things that happened. It’s more completing those things,” he explained. “We were starting them well; we weren’t completing them well. Whether it’s the transition game and once we got it we got rid of it too quick, or a bad dump. So it’s kind of putting our whole game together here and maybe being a little more patient at times and making better decisions in pressure situations a little better too.”
Julien had no update on defenseman Andrew Ference or winger Blake Wheeler. Ference was injured in the second period and did not return to the game. Wheeler suffered an injury in the third. Injuries or not, there could be lineup changes. Defenseman Shane Hnidy and forward Byron Bitz, who have both had shining moments in these playoffs, are waiting to suit up for the first time against the Hurricanes. Hnidy might be more of a candidate to get in there considering the injury to Ference and the poor play of the Bruins’ backliners on breakouts.
“He is (one of the best at stepping in after time off) because he’s got experience. He’s been in this league long enough,” Julien said. “I think he handles it well, he stays sharp and he’s not afraid to do extra and work hard at it to stay sharp. If he’s called upon tomorrow, I have no doubt in my mind he’ll be a good player for us.”
More important, Julien needs 18 skaters and a goalie to be good players in order to avoid a 3-1 deficit in this series. So far through three games, the Bruins haven’t been a solid top-to-bottom squad. If trouble hasn’t found them yet, it could be right around the corner.